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2006 04 27
Drawing on Imagination
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By Rohan Walters

I had an experience with a potential client the other day. They asked me to help fix planning errors in an apartment condo they had purchased. Their income was in the six-figure range and they were well educated. I presented previous projects to them and described how the eventual solutions evolved from sketches to construction documents. I showed them examples such as the ‘hide away’ Bang and Olufsen plasma T.V. to the little funky bar at the Alternate Grounds coffee house (see photos).

They gave me permission come up with initial concepts based on what I had shown them. Later I present them with sketches from my sketchbook and some ‘drafted’ drawings. The long and the short of the story was that they would not pay me for “sketches” but only for that which could be accounted for by ‘timing log file’ on my CADD program. Further I was asked in the most obnoxious way; “… What is it you do, sit around in a café and sketch!?”

I’m thought to myself, is there any point conveying the experience behind each stroke of the pencil? Like my time at the bottom of a storm sewer 8 feet below ground shoveling tons of dirt accidentally placed there by a tractor driver who missed the fact that a manhole was in his path while site grading. That as architecturally degreed individual I laboured in construction after graduation in order to enrich each stroke of the pencil. Or is there any point recounting how as a poor design student I flew to Ottawa after work on borrowed money for the privilege of listening to Aldo Rossi speak then hitch a ride back and be at work the next morning?

These potential clients were attempting to reduce my experience and ability to the level of a machine: a mere cog. The thousands of hours of love, intellect, creativity, study, experience, construction and so on, was not valid if it were not administered through a machine log. I was so disappointed in myself for even allowing these people in my world that I gave them a refund while at the same time saying to them, “if I never see you [them] again it would be too soon.”

From that moment I vowed to avoid people like this in my capacity as a creator, innovator and businessman as I would avoid people who would value me by the size of my wallet or the type of car I drove.

Despite this heady promise to myself I’m well aware of the realities of having to market my work and ability. So now when faced with the proverbial question, “how much did this or that cost?” I will respond by saying “It costs as much as the client was willing to spend and the level of creativity the client was able to digest”. In other words I will use my abilities to design what the client can afford, however what the client can accept from a creative standpoint does not come without their participation and some risk on both of our parts. Further, finding creativity, beauty and peace in ones life can be likened to the notion that “one cannot find love without some risk”.

In my world imagination is as important as the air we breathe and if one doubts air’s importance, imagine a world where we continue to trash it and have that air slowly removed from our lives. I am not a canary and this is not a gold mine. Imagination is good business.


[email this story] Posted by Rohan Walters on 04/27 at 05:23 AM

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